I decided it’d be fun to add more color variation between individuals, partly inspired by a picture I saw recently of various paper wasp faces, an image that went along with an article describing how scientists now know wasps can recognize faces (check it out). Melliferian bees are partly based on the European paper wasp, but the images were of northern paper wasps, which have more variation in coloration, unlike the wasps I’d looked at before which had simple but stark black markings on their faces.
And if you’re wondering why I’d base my bees partly on wasps, I’ll explain a bit. This article goes a long way to explaining what I’d already noticed as an artist, which is that wasps have highly individual faces while bees don’t so much. I already knew that European paper wasps have dominance structures that coincide with their black face splotches, but at the time it wasn’t known if the wasps were doing that on purpose or if low/no markings just happened to occur in individuals with less of whatever helps a wasp dominate others in her nest.
It’s just a personal hypothesis, but I think bees are more uniform in appearance because they don’t have these social dominance power plays, so differentiating individuals wouldn’t be necessary - plus they do most of their social interaction in the dark, inside their hive, while paper wasps hang out on top of their nest, able to clearly see each other.
I’m driven to make Melliferians function in some ways that humans can recognize and understand in my visual art, and interacting in a highly visual environment, reading faces and body language fits the bill. Bees almost universally don’t function this way, so rather than slotting in traits straight from humanity and calling it a day, I went looking in nearby species. Which is why I sometimes look to wasps for inspiration.